Stuffed Cucumbers from de Rontzier

Before I engage with my next major revision-of-old-stuff project (Meister Eberhard of Landshut), I will indulge in a few recipes from one of the less appreciated late sixteenth century sources.

Of stuffed cucumbers

You shall peel the cucumbers if they are old, but not if they are young.

1 Item you chop veal with eggs, white bread, pounded ginger and a little salt, fill the cucumbers with this, cook them, and dress them with capers and butter so that they have a short broth (kurtz von brueh sein) etc.

2 You chop veal with sheep fat (Schaffsunschligt), eggs, parmesan cheese, pepper and salt and fill the cucumbers with this, cook them, and strew them with parmesan cheese when you wish to serve them.

3 Item you chop veal with bacon, mace, eggs and gooseberries, fill the cucumbers with this, cook them, and dress them with butter and grated white bread and strew them with salt when you wish to serve them.

4 Item you fry spinach in olive oil, dress it with white bread, eggs, and small raisins, fill the cucumber with that, and dress them with olive oil, small raisins, vinegar and pepper.

5 Item you fry chervil and grated white bread in butter, stir it with eggs and chop it together with a little veal, fill the cucumbers with it, cook them and dress them with cut chervil etc.

(p. 251)

Schmorgurken – thick-skinned, hard-fleshed cucumbers meant for cooking – are still common in Germany and sometimes prepared in much the same way described here. The cucmbers are peeled, the seeds scooped out, and a savoury filling placed in the cavity. They are then either slowly cooked in a pot in a small quantity of water, or baked. We do not know how de Rontzier wants his prepared, but either method looks plausible.

Franz de Rontzier, head cook to the bishop of Halberstadt and duke of Braunschweig, published his encyclopaedic Kunstbuch von mancherley Essen in 1598. He clearly looks to Marx Rumpolt’s New Kochbuch as the new gold standard, but fails to match it in engaging style or depth. He is thus overshadowed by the twin peaks of Marx Rumpolt and Anna Wecker. What makes his work interesting is the way in which he systematically lists versions of a class of dishes, illustrating the breadth or a court cook’s repertoire. He is also more modernly fashionable than Rumpolt. Looking to France rather than Italy and Spain for inspiration, and some of the dishes he first describes may be genuine innovations.

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